Lytham is a community with plans to make itself heard

Lytham is a community with plans to make itself heard. Emma Mayoh reports PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

When Cath Powell invited people to form a new Lytham Community Choir, she got quite a shock. Almost 400 people signed up.

The group was formed to take part in the extraordinary mix of events being held in the town during 2012. Within a few weeks of being launched, the membership reached its capacity.

Cath, who is the co-ordinator, said: ‘There are so many exciting events happening this year and so many things to celebrate that we wanted to find a way to mark them and be involved.

‘I can’t quite believe how many people signed up, it is just incredible. We got an overwhelming response. It shows what a fantastic community we have here in Lytham.’

The group is made up of people who live or work in the town and members have already performed at a handful of local events. But they are preparing for the biggest date the town’s calendar - the Lytham Proms Festival Weekend in August.

The choir is so big that the stage is being specially built to accommodate the performance, which will take place just before Fleetwood tenor Alfie Boe’s set. They are also gearing up to perform when the Olympic Torch Relay passes through Lytham.

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But Cath takes these challenges in her stride - she is accustomed to climbing mountains. She is also one of the trust members of the charity Park View4U, who have raised almost �1 million since 2003 to transform a once flooded wasteland in Station Road into a playground, skate park, BMX track and green open space for the entire community to enjoy.

Work has just finished on a new amphitheatre which will be used for open air events, new groundsman Ted Charnley has created woodland paths from recycled Christmas trees. Later this month a new community centre and caf� at the park is expected to open and it is hoped the new centre will be used by the entire community. An edible avenue of fruit trees and a kitchen garden are being planted and there will also be many classes, events and courses held at the centre. The park has also recently been awarded a prestigious QE2 Award that recognises the efforts made to create the facility but also protects its future.

Cath, a 50-year-old bundle of energy, said: ‘We’re very excited about getting the centre open. There has been a lot of hard work from people who volunteer their time to make sure Park View is the best it can be. We wanted to create a place that everyone can enjoy and we hope we’ve done that. The award is also very exciting because it means the park will always be here for local people to enjoy, creating a lasting legacy.

‘It shows that if people work together for the good of the community then anything is possible and anything can be achieved. We haven’t just built a park and a new centre; we are building a new community.’

The community centre will be decorated with soft furnishings and bunting made by another thriving local group. Maria Tierney decided to set up the Lytham Belle’s Women’s Institute group earlier this year to encourage younger women to become involved. The group already has almost 80 women attending its meetings.

She said: ‘In Lytham, both the older and younger generations are catered for but it’s not so good for that middle age group. I’d heard about other modern Women’s Institute groups and I thought it would be great to have one in Lytham.

‘I wanted to try to move away from that very stereotypical view of jam and Jerusalem. I can’t believe the interest we’ve had. It shows there are a lot of people living in Lytham who want to get involved and be a part of their local community.’

The 42-year-old, who also runs her own business, Me and Ma, is hoping to pass on her own sewing and craft skills to other women in the group. The Lytham Belles are also planning a number of events, including a party at Victory Hall in the town to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Maria was born in Blackpool and has lived in beauty spots across the Lake District. But it is Lytham she adores.

She said: ‘Things have really changed in the past decade in Lytham. People used to think the town was all about retirement homes but there is a young feel to it now and there are lots of exciting things happening.‘Lytham has got a real sense of community, more than anywhere else I have ever lived. I love being here.’

Also keen on showcasing Lytham are Simon Cox and Justin Allitt who launched Lytham Coffee Co at the start of the year. As well as a special Lytham coffee blend they are also creating another to mark the Open golf being held in July. Part of the proceeds from each bag of coffee they sell are also donated to Brian House Children’s Hospice in Blackpool. The pair also hopes one day they will be able to have their coffee ground at Lytham Windmill.

Simon, also a local councillor, said: ‘We’re very pleased to be involved with creating a coffee for the Open and about celebrating Lytham at this very high profile event.

‘Our goal is to get our coffee roasted at the windmill. It would be fantastic and we would love our own coffee shop where people can see the process of the coffee being blended and ground. We’re both from Lytham and are very proud of the town and we love that we are celebrating it with our business.’